Although not as romantic as envelope filters or synth pedals in creativity, compressors are one of the best bass effects pedals in any bassists setup.
Compression performs two vital functions, the first is to smooth out your soft and loud signals to a similar volume level and the second is boosting output volume.
It seems simple enough, but the impact on how compression changes your overall sound quality is enormous.
To help you find the best bass compressor at an affordable budget range, I’ve put together 9 different brands which all have unique configurations and sound characteristics.
Some are more suited to beginners who want a simple control interface, others may have more advanced features to play with. I’ve also included a few innovative and vintage designs, from single knobs to controls galore.
Overall, the 9 models reviewed below are all worthy contenders and worth checking out in more detail.
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The Best Bass Compressor Pedals Reviewed
Keeley Bassist Limiting Amplifier Bass Compression Pedal
A mini powerhouse with adapted studio-grade VCA internals to produce an ultra clean, noiseless compressor at an affordable price.
The control interface is also super simple, once you’ve set your peak threshold to limit the maximum signal volume, just add on the compression ratio you’re after i.e. 6:1 for slap bass.
Perfect for bass players who want liquid warm tones without any hissing, distortion or noise.
Seymour Duncan Studio Bass Compressor Pedal
Another high grade VCA bass compressor with studio internals which produce a clean and powerful punch.
Seymour Duncan’s design is similar to the Keeley Bassist compressor in simplicity but with a few changes to the interface controls.
The blend knob allows more control over how much effect is added to your raw signal, and the frequency toggle can be adjusted to focus compression on highs, mids or lows for different dynamic results.
MXR M87 Bass Compressor
Some bass players prefer having more control over the finer aspects of compression, the M87 is designed with this in mind to include release, attack and compression ratios via control knobs.
Although the design is based on FET, the M87 behaves like a VCA with a clean, hiss-free output thanks to their CHT (constant headroom technology) design.
The configuration is more complex which means it will take longer to master the controls, but it does mean you have a lot more fine tuning options to play with.
TC Electronic SpectraComp Bass Compressor Pedal
As far as simple interfaces go, the SpectraComp only has one knob to worry about. It does, however, have some of the most advanced pedal technology onboard, including their MD3 dynamics engine.
The minimal design is backed by a much more complex back end, there are a lot more controls to take charge of through their software based TonePrint app.
While you’re not at a disadvantage of changing a whole bunch of settings, it’s impossible to do so while standing in front of an audience.
Darkglass Hyper Luminal Bass Compressor Pedal
A unique 3-in-1 effects pedal where you can choose between BUS (solid state compression), SYM (a darkglass designed compressor) and FET (based on the classic 1176) compression types.
The control interface resembles something you’d pick out the Apple Store with controllers for blend, time, output and compression and touch pads to choose compression ratios and compression types.
Overall, a really strong and unique contender worth checking out.
Electro-Harmonix Compressor For Bass
Another legendary pedal maker who have removed the usual controller complexity in favor of a simpler layout which includes a volume and sustain knob, along with an attack toggle switch.
The volume control can be adjusted against the total compression (sustain knob), so you can choose how much compression you want and balance the signal volume ratio.
The attack toggle can be adjusted to slow, medium or fast settings which indicates when compression will kick in. For example, setting a slow attack if you want more pick or finger definition in the mix.
Boss BC-1X Bass Compressor
Although boss has kept its signature outer design, their bass compressor actually has a lot going on inside.
The interface is not too complex with a level, release, ratio and threshold set of controls, but even if you blast everything to maximum, the output is near impossible to tarnish.
The mechanics of turning each knob automatically changes multiple compression settings hidden from view, but doesn’t distort or change the color of your tone.
Electro-Harmonix Classics Black Finger Compressor
A more vintage compressor which adds color and distortion to your sound, but using innovative technologies to speed up attack times. Although marketed towards guitar players, it works just as well on bass.
The pre-gain controller drives the raw signal into the compression tube much harder which allows you to break up the signal into a more distorted sound before compression.
The two attack settings are LED which provides a fast attack speed, and Lamp which is slower to allow more initial pick, slapping or pops to filter through before compression takes place.
Empress Effects Compressor Analog
Another Empressive, feature filled compressor which works for both bass guitar and electric guitar, and includes a large control interface to fine tune.
You’re able to dial in input gain for more color, attack speeds, release speeds and output gain, while also having the option to blend your raw signal together with the overall compression effect.
Ratio is set at 2:1, 4:1 and 10:1 through a toggle switch, and the gain meter can be switched between gain reduction, input or both signals simultaneously.
What does a bass compressor pedal do?
Unless you have robotic fingers which strike the strings evenly with every note you play, you’re likely going to jump up and down in volume.
Sometimes you’ll get a clicking/peaking noise when you go overboard on aggressive plucks, picks or string pops and at the very worst case scenario, you might even risk damaging your speakers.
Bass compressors solve this problem by ‘squashing’ or compressing soft and loud signals to the same volume level. You can play as hard or as soft as you like, the volume leaving your speaker will be consistent.
The second function of a bass compressor is boosting the raw signal volume generated by your pickups and the overall output level.
The extra boost helps reduce any extra noise or hum (more typical of single coil pickups) when pushing the input gain too high.
But, even if you had no problem with input volumes, toggling a bass compressor pedal on and off to boost volume means you are already preset for solos or musical phrases where you want to jump out of the mix.
Understanding Bass Compressor Terminology
Most of the bass compressor pedals I’ve reviewed have done away with complexity on purpose to focus on performance, but some are tailored to those who are interested in total tone control.
The best bass compressor is more of a personal preference and not determined by how many control knobs there are. But, there are a few abbreviations, controls and parameters which appear across models which are worth knowing.
The Three Main Bass Compressor Types
Bass Compressor controls
Best bass compressor settings
Depending on the type of compressor you have and whether you’re just starting out , it can take a while to find the best settings. Once you start to get your head wrapped around the different variations and controls, you’ll start to see how much value compression adds to your tone.
A good starting point is to set your compression ratio from around 2:1 to 4:1 which is a low to medium level. I’d also recommend using a faster attack (from around 0-4ms) and around 100-150ms on release.
Once you have the basics dialed in, you can start to tweak your threshold and make adjustments from there.
Adding a huge amount of compression can make your bass guitar sound lifeless, where a gentler compression tends to sound better overall.
It’s always going to be a personal choice, but often ‘less is more’ in this department.
There are a few essential bass effects worth looking at which boost your creative personality. But, focusing on getting the best possible sound quality to start with will mean everything else sounds good too.
This is where compression stands out. It doesn’t dazzle the audience with funky filters, but it does push your bass guitar’s full frequency range to a consistent level where you’re always featured in the mix.
So which of the 9 reviewed compressors is best?
If you’re after simplicity, the Keeley Bass Compression Pedal or Electro-Harmonix Bass Preacher are easy to set up right out of the box. If you want more control over your dynamic range, the Darkglass Hyper Luminal or MXR M87 models are a great choice.
But, every pedal on this page deserves a closer look and whatever you end up with will certainly add a lot of vibrance to your signal.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you have any favorites? Have you found any other compressors which deserve a place on this list?
Let me know in the comments below!